In enchanting Nice, where the Russian tsar's family and British winter refugees met as early as the 18th century, it is not only the rich and beautiful who enjoy Mediterranean flair, French cuisine and high-end shopping today.
Vieux Nice, the "old Nice", is one of the most important sights of Nice, along with the spectacular Nôtre Dame and the diverse museum landscape. The gorgeous city centre of Nice is one of our top 10 sights of France.
Winding alleys, pastel-coloured houses, high-end shops and boutiques and spacious squares with cosy cafés and restaurants make a stroll through Nice's old town a very special discovery tour.
Since most of the houses are five storeys high, there is always enough shade, so that even in midsummer it is not oppressively hot in the charming alleyways.
Tip: A city map is hardly necessary in Nice, you will automatically pass the most important sights of Nice. Just let yourself drift and look up from time to time so as not to miss the wonderful pastel colours of the old town houses.
Table of contents
Colline du Château and Port of Nice
It is easy to get lost among the high façades of Nice's old town, so a visit to the "Colline du Château" is recommended beforehand. The magnificent view provides a first overview of Vieux Nice. Before you venture into the maze of alleys in the old town, don't miss a visit to the picturesque port of Nice.
Sightseeing in Nice - here we go! Place Garibaldi in the north of the old town is not only one of the most beautiful squares in Nice, but also the ideal starting point for discovering Vieux Nice.
The square was laid out at the end of the 18th century and at that time marked the entrance to the city from the road to Turin. In 1870 it was named after the Italian guerrilla fighter Guiseppe Garibaldi, who was born in Nice. His statue adorns the centre of the square. Behind it, the façade of the Saint-Sépulcre Chapel impresses with a neoclassical-baroque style mix.
MAMAC and Théâtre National de Nice
Right next to Place Garibaldi on the Promenade des Arts is the Musée d'Art Moderne et d'Art Contemporain (MAMAC), Nice's museum of modern and contemporary art. It is one of our top 10 museums in Nice.
Opened in June 1990, the museum presents art from the 1960s to the present day with around 400 works. Behind the smart Carrera marble façade are works by Yves Klein, Christo, Niki de Saint Phalle, Andy Warhol, Roy Lichtenstein, Kenneth Noland and Frank Stella.
On the other side of the Promenade des Arts is the National Theatre of Nice, which was opened in December 1989 and has two auditoriums, one for 900 and the other for 300 spectators.
Place Rosetti and Cathédral Sainte-Réparate
Almost unexpectedly, the narrow streets suddenly widen out to Place Rosetti, which is a tourist attraction mainly because of the pretty Cathédral Sainte-Réparate. The cathedral was consecrated in 1699 after 49 years of construction and the striking, free-standing bell tower was added in 1750.
Wall frescoes, stained glass windows and ten pretty chapels can be seen inside. In 1906, the cathedral was declared a "monument historique". Numerous cafés, some of which have placed their tables right next to the cathedral, invite you to take a break from sightseeing and observe the lively activity in the square.
Tip: In Nice, be sure to try a traditional "socca". These flatbreads, up to one metre in diameter, are reminiscent of Italian pizzas, but are made of chickpea flour and have developed from a poor man's food into a regional speciality.
Via Rue de la Préfecture, the path leads from Place Rosetti via Place du Palais de Justice to the Promenade du Paillon and on to the magnificent Place Masséna, probably the most beautiful square in Nice.
Lined with red Italian-style buildings and planted with palm and pine trees, the square is a popular meeting place for locals and visitors alike. The picturesque "Fontaine du Soleil" is enthroned in the centre, its 7m high statue of Apollo surrounded by Mars, Venus, Mercury and Saturn from Roman mythology.
Since the connection to the tramway banished traffic, Place Masséna has regained its typical Mediterranean flair. In summer, open-air concerts, traditional events and festivals take place here.
Avenue Jean Médecin - Shopping 7 days a week
Avenue Jean Médecin, Nice's most famous shopping street, begins at Place Masséna. In addition to large shopping centres and fashion chains such as Galeries Lafayette, H&M or Zara, you can also find unusual boutiques here, such as the African Akwaba.
In the summer season, the shops are also open on Sundays, so there's nothing to stop you from shopping for souvenirs or mementos for yourself.
Basilica Nôtre Dame de Nice
When you're on Avenue Jean-Médecin, head straight for the impressive Basilica of Nôtre Dame de Nice. It looks like a centuries-old church, but was actually built in the 19th century and is one of our top 10 most beautiful churches in France.
The mighty place of worship is just as impressive as its famous counterpart, the Nôtre Dame in Paris. The 30-metre-high towers, the magnificent window rosette and the majestic interior of the Basilica of Nice are also impressive.
Saint Nicolas Cathedral
A little further west from the Basilica Nôtre Dame, on Avenue Nicolas II, is the Cathedral of Saint Nicolas. It is one of Nice's most visited and most photographed buildings and is also one of our 10 most beautiful churches in France.
It is the largest Russian Orthodox church outside Russia and can be seen from afar with its colourful onion domes. Lovely details on the façade and in the interior make the Saint-Nicolas Cathedral unusually different and interesting.
Promenade des Anglais and Nice Beach
Back in the old town, the route leads from Place Masséna along Avenue du Verdon through the park with the Théâtre de Verdure to the Promenade des Anglais.
The magnificent waterfront promenade is one of Nice's unofficial landmarks. Lined with inviting eateries and luxurious hotels, the promenade runs along Nice's 7km sandy beach together with the Quai des Ètats-Unis all the way to Castle Hill.
The "Promenade of the English" owes its name to the English visitors. As early as the 18th century, they appreciated this dreamlike piece of the Côte d'Azur for its constant Mediterranean climate.
The English were also the ones who pushed for the construction of the shore road back then. Today, people still meet here under palm trees to enjoy the fantastic panorama and relax.
Tip: The harbour and the Promenade des Anglais have the highest density of eating places, from expensive gourmet restaurants to grilled sardines from a stall. If you are looking for the nightlife of Nice, this is also the place to be.
Home to the Ballet Nice Méditerrannée and the Nice Philharmonic Orchestra, the Nice Opera House offers not only operas but also ballet performances and classical concerts.
Great personalities such as King Victor Emmanuel II, Napoleon Bonaparte, Russia's Tsar Alexander II and the Bavarian Duke Ludwig II have already been guests here. When Napoleon visited the opera, the orchestra was conducted by Johann Strauss himself.
The current appearance of the opera house dates from 1885, when the opera house had to be almost completely rebuilt after a major fire.
Parc Pheonix and Museum of Asian Art
The Parc Phoenix of Nice houses over 2000 different plant species on an area of around 7 hectares and presents some of them in their natural environment. Since 1998, the botanical theme park has also housed the Museum of Asian Art, whose impressive building was designed by the Japanese architect Kenzō Tange.
Shopping in Nice's Old Town
The lovely old town between the castle hill, the "Colline du Château", and the river Le Paillon is often described as the largest open-air shopping area on the Côte d'Azur. Stalls selling handmade soaps, fine textiles or artistic paintings by regional artists can be found on every corner, and local traders offer fresh fruit and vegetables, exotic spices, delicious pasta and colourful flowers at various markets.
PICTURES: The top 10 sights in the old town of Nice